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ALEXANDER  YON  HUMBOLBT.                  45
native soil, and there lay for him an irresistible charm
in exploring the heart of this land, which was still a
great mystery in the natural sciences. Hxirnboldt and
Bonpland landed at Cumana, let the ship which bad
hitherto carried them sail on, and thus the accidental
epidemic on the ship was the cause of Humboldt's
great discoveries in these regions—from the Orinocco
to the boundaries of the Portuguese possessions on the
Rio Grande. This circumstance may also have been
the accidental cause of the health and the unenclan-
gered life which they enjoyed in these equinoctial
regions, for a dreadful epidemic raged at Havannah,
whither they would have gone but for their prema-
tures departure from the ship, and this epidemic car-
ried off" many of their travelling companions.
The voyage from Corunna to Cumana, which had
lasted forty-one days, had been very fertile in physical
observations for Humboldt and his companion. With,
the assistance of the materials already prepared by
science he had made important observations on the
temperature of the atmosphere. The material differ-
ence between the atmospheric temperature on the sea
or on land, independent of the change of season and
the locality, seemed remarkable to him ; he invariably
found that the ocean was warmer than the atmosphere,
and that the readjustment of the balance between the
two elements was prevented by the winds, which hin-
dered the absorption of caloric during evaporation,
during which, as is well known, caloric is always dis-
Humboldt made other interesting researches on the
blueness of the sky. Not oxily was his eye gladdened
"by the splendid change of colour from the pale green
to the brilliant yellow and red of the ocean sky, he did
not, like an ordinary admirer of nature, only let the
momentary impression at the sight of the azure tint
of the high vault remain on his mind, but he thought
seriously on the effect and cause of the phenomenon,
and thus he was the first naturalist who has made
scientific observation^ on the colours of the sky over